Why Is This Food So High in SmartPoints?

For those using Weight Watchers and calculating SmartPoints, sometimes we look up a food and wonder what is making it have high SmartPoints.  By now, most of us have gotten the memo that foods that are high in sugar or high in saturated fat = really high SmartPoints.  I am not surprised any more when I see that the frozen yogurt I ate last month has doubled in points. And, it is not particularly surprising that this dessert at Carrabba’s will set you back a full 54 SmartPoints! For me that would be a full day’s worth of daily SmartPoints, plus 24 Weekly SmartPoints!

Birthday dessert

Not that it was any great bargain at 32 PointsPlus.  That was more than a day’s worth of PointsPlus. And, when I actually did have it (on my birthday), it was shared between 4 people.  So, it would be about 13 or 14 SmartPoints if shared among 4.  To me, that would absolutely be worth it.  But, this is not the kind of thing that I would eat very often.

Sometimes, though, it isn’t immediately clear why a food has points that are so high.  This is when you can be really surprised if you eat a food and then track its SmartPoints.  At that point, you may wonder just what makes that food have high SmartPoints.

There are basically 3 reasons why a food has high SmartPoints:  high calories, high saturated fat and high sugar.  The reason that Sogno Di Cioccolata “Chocolate Dream” Dessert qualifies is because it is high in all 3 of them.  To start out with, it has 1135 calories (!), which is pretty much a day’s worth of non-fruit and non-veggies calories for when I eat 30 SmartPoints in a day.

You can see the effect of calories on points by simply plugging in the calories and protein in the calculator, but leaving the other values at 0.  When you do that, it would 34 SmartPoints.  Since that actual SmartPoints for this whole dessert is 54 SmartPoints, you can tall that the saturated fat and sugar add 20 SmartPoints to the total count!

In fact, the entire dessert has 35 grams of saturated fat and 88 (!) grams of sugar.  You can see how much the saturated fat contributes to SmartPoints value by inputting the values, put putting 0 for sugar. When I do that, it comes out as 43 SmartPoints.  So we can see that the saturated fat alone adds 9 SmartPoints to this dish, beyond the points just from the calories (as mitigated by the protein).

And what about those 88 grams of sugar?  If we put in 0 for saturated fat, but put in the values for everything else what would this be?  44 SmartPoints.  So the sugar adds 10 SmartPoints.

What we can tell from this is that the full 54 SmartPoints occurs because (1) this is a high calories food, (2) it is high in saturated that isn’t mitigated by high protein, and (3) it is really high in sugar.

If I really, really want this dessert, the easiest way to handle it is to share it with others. I had this on my last birthday, and was happy to pay the 8 PointsPlus that it would cost to eat 1/4 of it.  And, I would have it again for the higher SmartsPoint value for 1/4 of it.  But, even on PointsPlus, I couldn’t really afford the full dessert as it would have been well over my daily points (and, of course, it isn’t a food that makes you think of health).

With some foods, though, it is not immediately obvious why a food has high SmartPoints.  I spent a little bit of time this morning looking at the menu for one of my favorite places to eat, Panera Bread.  I eat there 2 to 4 times a month.  And, it is usually pretty reasonable for me in points cost.  At a Weight Watchers meeting awhile ago, I remember a member saying that Panera was so difficult to eat at since food was so high in PointsPlus.  I was dumbfounded since I consider Panera a low point option.  How could we see it so differently?  Basically, she was looking mostly at the pastries.  I was looking mostly at the specific salads and soups I tend to eat there.

I had lunch at Panera on Monday.  It was 17 SmartPoints, when it would have been 15 PointsPlus.  I had what I eat there most times.  A Pick 2 with a half BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad (7 SmartPoints, 6 PointsPlus), a cup of Turkey Chili (6 SmartPoints, 5 PointsPlus) and a total optional indulgence of Panera potato chips (4 SmartPoints, 4 PointsPlus).  I used 7 weekly points that day, which was totally reasonable for an eating out day.  I could have easily cut 4 points from it by skipping the chips, but I had the points available and decided to use them on the chips.

But had I ordered the pick 2 with the Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup and a half Italian Combo Sandwich, plus chips, I would have spent 33 SmartPoints.  Why is that meal almost twice what I spent?

Well, the Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup alone is 14 SmartPoints for a cup!  Why is it so high in SmartPoints?  Let’s look at the full bowl of soup.  That larger serving is 19 SmartPoints and is 450 calories.  On PointsPlus, this bowl would have been 12 PointsPlus. Looking just at the calories (as mitigated by 8g of protein), the soup would be 13 SmartPoints for a bowl. Where do the other 6 SmartPoints come from?  If the bowl had the same calories and protein and the 18g of saturated fat that is in it, then it would be 18 SmartPoints.  If it had the same calories and protein and the 12g of sugar that is in it (but no sat. fat), then it would be 14 SmartPoints.  From this we can tell that the main reason this food has gone up so much in points is primarily because of the saturated fat.

Where does that come from? In this case, if you look at the ingredient list, you can see that the main culprits are likely to be the cream and butter in the ingredients.

So, let’s say you want a bowl of soup and you don’t want the turkey chili I usually order.  What is a lower SmartPoints choice?  Actually a lot of the Panera soups are reasonable in points. If you really want to eat low point, though, you could go for the Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto.  At 140 calories, .5 saturated fat, 5g of sugar and 4g of protein, it will only cost 5 SmartPoints for the bowl.  If you are eating a Pick 2, the cup is only 3 SmartPoints.

But, let’s say you really want something creamy.  Another choice would be the Cream of Chicken & Wild Rice Soup.  A full bowl is 310 calories (quite a bit less than the tomato soup), with 8g of saturated, 6g of sugar, and 10g of protein.  It comes out to 11 SmartPoints for the bowl and 8 SmartPoints for the cup. Yes, it has cream and milk but it has a less total saturated fat and calories than the tomato soup.

While I usually get a salad and soup for the Pick 2, sometimes I want the sandwich.  That Italian Combo Sandwich on Ciabatta is 1000 calories for the full sandwich.  Even if I get the pick 2 half sandwich, the 500 calories, 8g of saturated fat, 4g of sugar and 29g of protein will still be a hefty 15 SmartPoints.  Even if it didn’t have the saturated fat and sugar, it would still be 12 SmartPoint just based upon the calories (as lessened by the protein). That is only slightly more than the 11 PointsPlus it would have been.  This is mostly a high point food simply because it is high in calories, with the saturated fat adding a few points.

When I order a sandwich at Panera, I don’t want to spend 15 SmartPoints on a half sandwich.  I almost always order the Smoked Turkey Breast.  The half sandwich is way less calories than that in the Italian Combo.  Part of that is because it doesn’t have the steak, ham, salami and Swiss cheese that are on the Italian Combo. The smoked turkey half sandwich is 220 calories, with 0 saturated fat, 2g of sugar and 16g of protein and comes in at 5 SmartPoints.  I save 10 SmartPoints by getting that half sandwich instead of the Italian Combo.  And, there are other sandwiches that are in between those two.

So, you think that maybe you will order a Smoothie with your meal.  The Low-Fat Mango Smoothie looks healthy (low-fat! mango!), so you order it.  You just spent 14 SmartPoints!  Why?  Well it starts out at 270 calories, with 7 grams of protein.  Just from that (without considering anything else), it is 8 SmartPoints.  This smoothie would have been 7 PointsPlus.  So, why is it actually 14 SmartPoints instead of being 8?  Sugar.

The mango smoothie has 54g of sugar!  You might say that mangoes are healthy.  First, tropical fruits have a lot of sugar.  And, once you put them in a smoothie, you are counting that sugar as part of SmartPoints.  And, this smoothie isn’t just mangoes.  It has a Mango Fruit Base for sure.  But, that Mango fruit base has (among other things) mango puree, orange juice, banana puree and sugar.  The smoothie also has low fat French Vanilla Yogurt, which includes sugar. In short, this smoothie gets a lot of SmartPoints from both the natural sugar in the mango puree, orange juice and banana puree, plus added sugars and the sugars in the yogurt.

But, you really want a smoothie.  A lower SmartsPoint choice is the Superfruit Power Smoothie. It has 210 calories, 0 fat, 30g of sugar and 14g of protein.  It has much less sugar and almost twice the protein.  The result is that it is only 9 SmartPoints.  It’s fruit base includes apple, blackberry and blueberry puree and a bunch of juices from concentrate.  It does have agave nectar which is simply sugar by another name.  It gets some of its sweetness from a sweetener from Stevia.  I don’t usually like to drink my calories, but if you really want a smoothie, this is a much lower point count than the mango smoothie.

On the way out of Panera, I sometimes stop at the pastries.  I used to order the Cinnamon Crunch bagel quite often to take home for a snack.  Then, I found out that this bagel raises my blood glucose a lot.  I’m not diabetic, but I am somewhat insulin resistant so I don’t want foods that raise my blood sugar that much.  I haven’t had a Cinnamon Crunch bagel since early this year.

Now it is no real surprise that the Cinnamon Crunch bagel with its 420 calories and 31g of sugar is 17 SmartPoints.  The culprit there is mostly the calories and the 31g of sugar, more than the 4.5g of saturated fat (which only adds 1 SmartPoint to the mix).  If I really want a bagel with some cinnamon in it (I do), I can cut the SmartPoints down to 10 by simply picking the Cinnamon Swirl & Raisin Bagel.  Why is it 7 SmartPoints lower? It has 100 less calories, and 20g less of of sugar.  With the bagels, they vary quite a bit in both calorie count and sugar, so you can lower the points by simply picking a different bagel.

OK, but what if I want a scone or a muffin?  Unfortuately, all of them are pretty high in sugar and calories.  That means that you don’t really save much by choosing a different one.  The Cinnamon Crunch scone is 25 SmartPoints, but the Wild Blueberry Scone is still 20 SmartPoints.  Neither one is that appealing in terms of SmartPoints.  The best you can really do here is to have a mini scone.  The Wild Blueberry Mini Scone is only 7 SmartPoints.  This is because it is much smaller and only has 160 calories, which also means a reduction in sugar. Muffins are similar.  The full size Pumpkin muffin is 25 SmartPoints, but the Pumpkin muffie will only set you back 12.

Maybe at that point, you decide to do what I usually do:  window shop the pastries, then turn away and leave.


  1. Beth S says

    Hey there – I had Panera twice this week and it’s very doable! The chicken noodle soup is 3 SP. Once I had a half chicken caesar for 6, the other time I had a half turkey avocado BLT also 6.

    I’m enjoying reading your posts!

    PS: Lost .8 at weigh in today 🙂

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